My current favorite word is “pejorative”, generally for indicating what I’m not doing. I frequently need to separate a word’s denotations from its connotations. Take the word “manipulate”. Denotatively, it means “to create change by influencing something… in a negative way”. That latter connotation is not inherent to the act of manipulating itself. One could manipulate the world in a strictly positive way, by using ethical means for a purely desirable end. To communicate that, I would say something like, “he manipulates the world around him, but I don’t mean ‘manipulate’ in a pejorative sense” to isolate the facts from the opinions. (Why use “manipulate” at all? It’s the most denotatively-precise word; more direct than “influence” or hands-on than “alter”.) Pejoratives are judging, and I appreciate the ability to remove that opinion.
From The Dialogues:
1. Punctuating outside the quotation marks.
E.g.: The man told me, “You ain’t never been to Nashville ’til you been to Graceland”.
I’m still unsure about double-punctuating, e.g. She asked me, “What happened?”. I told her, “Sherol yelled, “Help!”. Open to thoughts.
2. Hyphenating -LY adverb constructions.
E.g.: “The greatly-appreciated man showed the onlookers around his gardens.”
Grammar is for clarity. this exception does not help with clarity.
More to come.
I’ve curated a list of recent quotes from my life, along with a challenge: Who said each quote? Me or Not-Me? (Answers at the end; track your responses to see how well you fare!)
- “You know that Carly Simon song? It’s about me.”
- “Sometimes I feel like I’m always rushing. Then I get some free time and it’s just the worst.”
- “When you eliminate the extraneous, all that’s left is you. When you eliminate the you, all that’s left is the Tao.”
- “Pickling is so great. They take cucumbers and make them edible!”
- “Nexterday. I mean tomorrow.”
- “I like spending time with people with low self-esteem—whenever we arrive at a problem, they’re too busy blaming themselves to blame me.”
- “I’m a coffee drinker, so cups of tea aren’t my cup of tea.”
- “You’re nervous. That’s okay. Just don’t be nervous about being nervous.”
- “My computer just told me it has an upgrade it wants to run. Let me guess: it’s going to make the computer run more slowly and not affect how I use it at all.”
- “The more I learn about how things work, the more I learn they’re stupid and poorly done.”
- “Avocado would be a great Halloween costume for a pregnant woman.”
- “With T-Mobile, you get free tacos on Tuesdays, but with Verizon you can make phone calls.”
To protect you from accidentally seeing the answers, please enjoy this anecdote: (Real! Real true! Real true funny!)
Context: A highschool couple eats dinner at Chick-Fil-A. The Girl has painted her face with such vigor that it lacks pores. The guy sports spiky hair, diamond hoop earrings, and flip-flops.
Girl: I don’t find comedy funny.
Guy: You don’t find comedy funny?
Girl: I find it cringe-y. It’s not natural funny. It’s like forced funny. I don’t like comedy movies because they’re not funny. I feel like the only comedy that I actually find funny is, like, White Chicks. Oh my god! We should watch White Chicks together!
(Scroll down for the answers)
(Who’s a good scroller? You are! Yes, you are!)
Those answers you’ve been waiting for:
1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 are by Yours Truly
0: You know me incredibly well, but prefer self-sabotage.
1-3: Next time, try flipping a coin.
4-6: You did flip a coin.
7-9: Let’s be friends.
10-11: So close and yet so far. Was it the pickling? I bet it was the pickling.
12: Self… is that you? I mean me? Are you… me?
Why do I call my blog “Always Better”? Four reasons:
- It should be strictly better than some other activities. Eating popcorn or browsing Reddit, for example: this blog should Always be a Better use of time.
- I Always want to be a Better writer. Better than who? Better than I was yesterday. Better than I was this morning. Better than I’ve ever been.
- It’s a pun for what I wanted to be when I started the blog: Better in All Ways. 
- They say creative lives are a gamble. That makes this blog is a bet, which means I’m Always Betting.
 I no longer want that. Instead, I’ve turned off improvement in some areas to focus more on the few I care strongly about.
 I haven’t fount my creative life particularly gamble-y, but that’s a topic for another time.
What do I do when I don’t want to write?
I write about how I’m annoyed.
Dozens of writings begin with the phrase,
“I don’t want to write today.”
After a while it evolves into poem
Or into emotional quandary.
The process can feel like picking a scab
Or bleaching ratty laundry.
Sometimes I only know five minutes in
That my first few beginnings were flounders
Eventually arriving at the place in my mind
Where seconds are minutes are hours.
Time stands still and speeds along
As I’m lost in expressing myself.
I nibble at feelings, explore one of my sides
Before putting it back on the shelf.
Most of the time I write end-of-day;
It typically feels like a chore.
Why do I do it? Why write every day?
Because that’s what a writer is for.
A stabilizing force, it keeps me sane,
Reminding me life has no breaks.
Even if just one sentence: “I don’t wish to write,”
I write for writing’s sake.
“I dislike fish” is different from “I don’t like fish.” The first establishes an existence while the second allows for a neutral feeling or no opinion.
Through linguistic constructs like this, the English language implies that liking is the existence of action and disliking is the absence. (In addition to “like, “I care” is an action and “I don’t care” is an absence. See also “I love” and “I don’t love,” as well as “I’m a fan of…” and “I’m not a fan of…”).
This language suggests that bad is the absence of good. In reality, however, good is the absence of bad.* Our language should reflect that.
*While I’m confident in this statement, I have trouble articulating “why” beyond simply giving examples. I suspect it boils down to the fact that “good” eventually boils down to our struggle against entropy, which is the always-coming bad.